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The French Lieutenant's Woman

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  36,898 Ratings  ·  1,153 Reviews
The scene is the village of Lyme Regis on Dorset's Lyme Bay..."the largest bite from the underside of England's out-stretched southwestern leg." The major characters in the love-intrigue triangle are Charles Smithson, 32, a gentleman of independent means & vaguely scientific bent; his fiancée, Ernestina Freeman, a pretty heiress daughter of a wealthy & pompous dry ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 366 pages
Published August 1970 by A Signet Book from the New American Library (first published June 1969)
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Tytti I think I was a bit older when I first tried to read it and, if I recall correctly, it went over my head. So while I see no reason why a 12-year-old…moreI think I was a bit older when I first tried to read it and, if I recall correctly, it went over my head. So while I see no reason why a 12-year-old couldn't read it, she may not really understand it and may think it's boring. (less)

Community Reviews

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With a title like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, it’s gotta be a romance novel with a cover featuring some Fabio-like male model in a 19th century French army uniform that’s ripped to pieces to expose his abs as some buxom wench showing a lot of thigh clings to him, and he waves a sword in the air? No?

Oh, so it was the basis for some award winning movie with Meryl Streep back in the ‘80s? Then it’s got to be some boring-ass lame period piece with all kinds of proper English folk walking around w
I think the greatest strength of this book is the utter uniqueness of it. I don't think I've ever read a book like it. It is set in the Victorian year of 1867, and yet, the sensibility of the book is thoroughly grounded in the 1960s (when it was written). The language, metaphors, and focus of the book all come from the 1960s, and the actions of the characters are all given the lens of the highly visible author- who is in fact one of the major characters of the book (much in the style of Thackera ...more
“I am infinitely strange to myself.”
― John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman


The reason I am drawn to literature, to art, to books considered to be classics, is to watch some middle-aged, bearded man put on a pair of (excuse the flamboyant analogy) skates and suddenly pitch himself into the center of the ring and pull off a triple Salchow. I love risk-taking, experimental literature. With 'The French Lieutenant's Woman', Fowles is boldly moving in a lot of directions at once (pushing down f
The writer slides a blank sheet of paper into his typewriter. His fingers hover over the "asdfjkl;" like a pianist ready to tackle the Moonlight Sonata. Then he withdraws them and gazes pensively into the distance at the grey sea and even greyer sea wall keeping its salty waters at bay. He had had a vision in his head of a woman walking by the sea, all shrouded in the cloak. Something about her called to him. He wants to start writing but something is stopping him.

Now you might wonder what it i
Aug 13, 2011 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
All writers create worlds that do not exist – so there should be no qualms that this novel recreates a world, a very Victorian world, a world populated with its own people, all now long dead, that had its own writers and chroniclers, all also now very much dead, that had its own ideas and tendencies and fears and preferences and prejudices, all of which we can no longer now really hold as our own, should there? (Or was the gap too long for you to remember that the subject of that sentence was so ...more
Deniz Balcı
Jan 07, 2016 Deniz Balcı rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ingiliz-edebiyat
Son zamanlarda okuduğum en farklı roman diyebilirim. Fowles'ın şimdiye kadar okuduğum eserleri içinde en sevdiğim açıkçası "Büyücü". Halen o kitabın etkisini üzerimden atamadım. Fakat bu kitabında çok sarsıcı bir etkisi oldu üzerinde. Kitabı okurken yer yer bu romanın nasıl bu kadar önemli hale geldiğini sorgulama ihtiyacı hissediyordum aslında. Kendi kendime Victoryen Dönemi içerisinde postmadambovaryci bir kitap okuduğumu sanıyordum ve Sarah karakterini de Madam Bovary'e bir alternatif olarak ...more
Maria Clara
May 12, 2016 Maria Clara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
¿Puede un libro compararse a un té? ¿Puede uno beber sus páginas a sorbos, en una lluviosa tarde de invierno? ¿Puede uno saborear cada palabra como si fuera una gota de una infusión aún por descubrir? A veces, uno abandona la última página de un libro enamorado de sus protagonistas; otras veces, con la sensación de haber perdido el tiempo; y pocas, con un sabor entre amargo y dulce. En este caso, ni me he enamorado de sus protagonistas ni he tenido la sensación de haber perdido el tiempo y mucho ...more
Nov 15, 2016 Heba rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: love, woman
كان بصرها مُسددا كالبندقية صوب الأفق البعيد تنتظر عودته...
كان وجها يصعب نسيانه ..وجهاً مأساويا يتفجر الحزن منه نبعا صافيا دون ان تشوبه لمحة نفاق أو خداع ..!!

..مرة واحدة ..مرة واحدة رفعت عينيها
وفجأة احمرت خجلاً على نحو عذب..غريب
لتجد أنهما التقت بعيني

كانت نظرتها لافتة للنظر على نحو يصعب تفسيره ..نظرة متمردة خاطفة ..
تشع ذكاء وحماسة رغم اليأس الذي يطغى عليها..
تراه وصفاً يخالطه التناقض اليس كذلك ولكنني أرى انها لغز يصعب فتح مغاليقه
عينان يمكن ان يغرق فيهما اي انسان...
"تشارلز" الرجل النبيل الذي يبحث
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 29, 2013 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2012)
Definitely an engaging read because of the way it is crafted. John Fowles is the implied narrator that is revealed in the end and through a toss of coin presents two possible endings to the story. I have read 1,200+ books so far and I have not seen anything like this until this book. This alone firms up my belief that this book deserves its inclusion in the Time 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century and its seemingly permanent inclusion in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.

Sarah Woodruff
Xavier Guillaume
Nov 01, 2015 Xavier Guillaume rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literature nerds like me
Recommended to Xavier by: James Sarver
Sarah is one of the most remarkable female characters of modern literature. She's a mixture of Jane Eyre, Hester Prynne, and Ophelia, a woman who has experienced much hardship, yet is strong and steadfast, like a sad statue, and slightly mad. Although, I'm torn, is it inaccurate to call Sarah mad? I suppose one could write a whole academic paper on that topic alone. She's not crazy to the Ophelian point where she belongs in a mental institution; perhaps, today we would just label her as having d ...more
Apr 04, 2015 huzeyfe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okuduğum ilk John Fowles romanı. Aslında sıra bana kalsa Koleksiyoncu, Büyücü ve Fransız Teğmen’in Kadını olarak planlardım okumamı -ki zaten öyle niyetlenmiştim- ama grupta Mart ayı okuması için seçilince planımı birazcık değiştirme yoluna gittim.

Yazar Viktorya Dönemi’de kurguladığı bu romanı gerek o dönemin insan tiplerini ve onların karakteristik özelliklerini ve gerekse de toplumun genel olarak durumunu -kendisi o dönemde yaşamamış olsa da- çok güzel yansıtmış. Başlarda -daha çok kendi durum
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The story wasn't what I expected it to be at all. I expected the story to be similar to Madame Bovary and the writing style of the author to be more Victorian, seeing as the story was set in that era, but it's actually quite modern. This book made me an instant fan of John Fowles. He writes very intelligently and although he plays the role of narrator in the 19th Century, his perception is that of a 20th Century writer, which makes the book even more interesting. ...more
Feb 26, 2014 El rated it really liked it
I have now read the first three books written by John Fowles, in the order of publication, without even trying. I love when things like that happen.

What I adore about Fowles is that he wrote these novels that seem like mere novels on the outside, but on the inside they are filled with art and beauty and some incredible genius. At first I thought this one would be straightforward in comparison to the first two books (The Collector and The Magus), and initially I had some trouble getting into the
Oct 28, 2007 MacK rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm considering having t-shirts made.

They will either be a hodgepodge of John Fowles quotes that I find tremendously thought provoking and profound, a tour date of the freaky head-trips his books have put me on, or quite simply I (Heart) John Fowles.

I don't like this book nearly as much as the other two I've already read this year The Magus or The Collector, and I still think it's better than most everything else out there.

Part of this stems from the fact that I, like Fowles, am a Literary nerd
Nov 28, 2007 Briynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book, and not at all what I expected. I was expecting a contemporary Victorian novel - perhaps a "Scarlett Letter" written in the 1880s. Imagine my surprise upon finding out that, in fact, its this weird, fascinating, post-modern version of a Victorian novel written in the 1960s. So cool. The author narrates his story in an unusual way; it's funny because he goes out of his way to make you remember that it's not just a story, but a story he made up and that he is telling, complete with ...more
I know that I read this one many years ago but couldn't remember very much about it. I appreciated it more with this second reading many years later. An unusual delivery with the story set in Victorian times with a modern day twist. Charles Smithson, a man torn between his future marriage and duty to Ernestina and his lust for the more earthy and forbidden Sarah Woodruff, the French Lieutenants Woman. Poor Charles torn between his wallet, position and his heart. When reading this novel I felt mo ...more
Lars Egler
I know this book is supposed to be all quirky post-modern/Victorian and that lots of people think it's amazing. Me... not so much. I just got the impression that the author was just a little too pleased with himself and his interjections into the story itself. While I recognize the merit/intelligence of said exposition, I guess I just really wanted a good, straight-forward fiction and not a lesson on the dichotomies of the Victorian psyche or the sly referneces to god, destiny, the power of the ...more
Patrizia O
Il romanziere resta sempre un dio, dal momento che crea (neanche il più aleatorio dei moderni romanzi d’avanguardia è riuscito a sopprimere completamente il suo autore); ciò che è cambiato è che non siamo più gli déi dell’immagine vittoriana, onniscienti e sentenziosi; ma déi secondo una nuova immagine teologica, e il nostro principio fondamentale è la libertà, non l’autorità.

Il titolo “La donna del tenente francese” ha sempre avuto su di me un forte potere evocativo legato al ricordo infant
Oct 04, 2012 Lucrezia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
E di come ci si può dare all' enigmistica leggendo ....

Avete presente quando magari leggendo una rivista di enigmistica appunto , oppure da piccoli quando vi davano qualcuna di quelle schede operative , vi imbattete in quei giochini o attività (se avete parole diverse definite pure come vi pare) in cui bisogna colorare gli spazzi bianchi contrassegnati da puntini e scoprire quale figura ne verrà fuori , o magari collegare una successione di numeri , per ottenere sempre lo stesso risultato ... Be
Jun 02, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: metafiction, 2016
I guess I thought this book would be weirder. It's hyper-aware of itself - its narrator, coming at you from the presentish day, keeps pointing out his own Victorian cliches as he writes them, and he makes it clear that he's perfectly willing to go back and change his own story. (The book in fact ends three different times and ways.) But he doesn't actually end up unreliable. He changes his story, but doesn't subvert it. And the story itself doesn't hold water for me: Sarah Woodruff's attraction ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Let’s call it 3.25 stars. This novel is basically one big gimmick. Fowles writes well and has done his research, so he pulls off the gimmick fairly well. But it is still a gimmick, and the story itself isn’t strong enough to stand on its own. This review will contain some SPOILERS.

The story consists of a simple love triangle involving Charles (the gentleman), Ernestina (his proper young fiancée) and Sarah (the mysterious “fallen” woman). It makes a thin plot for a 467-page book; what sets the bo
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 23, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone--Well, those who can stand some ambiguity
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Suzanne Dobbins
On Goodreads five stars is for amazing, and this novel earns it, even if some aspects maddened me. I knew two things about this novel going in. One, it was pointed to me as one of the most masterful examples of the omniscient point of view written in the 20th century, which made me eager to read it, and second, that it had alternate endings, which put me off. (A device I hate, hate, hate--it seems such a cheat.) Actually, having before this read Fowles' The Magus, I could add I knew he had a mas ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Angie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: robert
Recommended to Angie by: my mum
Shelves: favorites
The French Lieutenant's Woman had been on my tbr list for an age, came recommended by my Mum who sighs enigmatically every time she mentions it as one of her favourites. I think I put it off a little thinking it only as 'another great post-modern Victorian novel I will read one day' of which there are many....nothing could have prepared me for how much I adored this book.

Not only the best book for me this year but definitely in my top 20 list of all time.

I devoured John Fowles narrative and the
Aug 13, 2012 Melody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melody by: Brian Johnson
You can simply read this book as a novel – but it will possibly frustrate you and have you wondering what the heck Sarah’s motives were and how in tarnation the book ends; because this is a novel about the craft of writing and it’s not necessarily a tale for your enjoyment. It is a Victorian novel written in the 60s. Sarah, or the “French Lieutenant’s Woman”, however, is a 20th century woman. The things she does and the decisions she makes are those of a 20th century character existing in a Vict ...more
Vit Babenco
Mar 05, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The copulatory theme was repeated in various folio prints in gilt frames that hung between the curtained windows. Already a loose-haired girl in Camargo petticoats was serving the waiting gentlemen with Roederer’s champagne. In the background a much rouged but more seemingly dressed lady of some fifty years of age cast a quiet eye over her clientele.”
John Fowles recreates the atmosphere of the Victorian era with an enviable thoroughness and he never fails to be rich in intriguing details. So Th
Jul 04, 2016 Diletta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Questo romanzo è bellissimo perché c'è tutto quello che vorreste da un romanzo dell'800.
Ma è stato scritto un secolo dopo. E Fowles è sempre presente, in una lunghissima discussione sul libero arbitrio, sulla sessualità, sui rapporti sentimentali.
Jul 14, 2010 C. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to C. by: Glenda
I loved the post-modern aspects of this, which I thought were very well done. I was less enthusiastic about the story, which appeared to be told by an arrogant twat who thought he knew what women were about and who spent a lot of time criticising Victorian sensibilities while simultaneously (but more subtly) regaling us with his own, more pernicious brand of 1960's sexism. However, I haven't read enough Victorian literature to know how much of it was Victorian and how much of it was Fowles', so ...more
Jun 22, 2016 Panos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ομολογώ πως σε κάποιο σημείο με κούρασε και το είχα αφήσει για λίγο. Όταν το ξαναέπιασα, σιγά-σιγά μπήκα στο κλίμα και -νομίζω- η πλοκή απέκτησε ενδιαφέρον. Μου άρεσε για την ανελέητη ειρωνεία (είτε φανερή είτε κάπως συγκαλυμμένη) απέναντι στη βικτωριανή ηθική και φυσικά στο βικτωριανό μυθιστόρημα. Κραυγαλέο παράδειγμα μεταμυθοπλασίας και παρώδησης των συμβάσεων του λογοτεχνικού ρεαλισμού, χωρίς, ωστόσο, να χάνει την αφηγηματική του γοητεία.
I am so glad this is over! Why on earth did I want to read it?
Mar 13, 2015 Laila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Grubun mart ayı okumalarının dünya edebiyatı seçkisiydi.

Daha önce hiç John Fowles kitabı okumamıştım. Bu yüzden yazar ya da içerikle ilgili hiçbir bilgim yoktu. Böyle olması bir bakıma daha iyi gibi düşündüm. Okudukça tanımak...

Gelelim kitaba: Kitabın giriş bölümünde, kurguya adapte olma aşamasında biraz korktum, anlatım dili ağır gibi geldi, kurgu ilerlemeyecek gibi düşündüğümden "bitmez bu kitap" dediğim zamanlar oldu. Yavaş yavaş, olayların içine girdikçe akıcılık arttı, ve ilerledikçe şaşı
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Belmont Book Finders: I found The French Lieutenant's Woman 1 1 Nov 11, 2016 09:29AM  
I found The French Lieutenant's Woman 1 2 Nov 11, 2016 09:05AM  
Turkish Reading C...: Fransız Teğmenin Kadını ile ilgili tartışma 19 93 Jul 01, 2015 04:19PM  
What's The Name o...: SOLVED. Victorian Romance like the Scarlett Letter /s 4 27 Aug 09, 2014 09:26PM  
literature 3 37 May 03, 2014 06:11AM  
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John Robert Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, a small town located about 40 miles from London in the county of Essex, England. He recalls the English suburban culture of the 1930s as oppressively conformist and his family life as intensely conventional. Of his childhood, Fowles says "I have tried to escape ever since."

Fowles attended Bedford School, a large boarding school designed to prepare boys
More about John Fowles...

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“We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words.” 120 likes
“I am infinitely strange to myself.” 88 likes
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